I had the amazing opportunity to speak with Beth Applewhite educator, wife, mom and founder of Kid Fun Houston. During our conversation she shared her fears and challenges of being placed on strict bed rest during both her pregnancies as a result of preterm labor.
Beth learned so much about herself during that journey, and soon after the birth of her second child she was determined to not waste another minute indoors. She began to reach out to friends through emails and texts to find the places in Houston with kid activities, and she would arrange playdates with all her friends at those locations. Soon she became the central hub, and it blossomed into a popular Facebook community Kid Fun Houston which now has over 6,500 members.
This month, Beth Applewhite is the Motherhood Center’s Pregnancy Story. She can warmly laugh about the struggles she had during her pregnancies and the stress of preterm labor, but as Beth says “being a mom to Pierce (3.5 years old) and Berkeley (22 mos old) makes it all worth it.”
What were your pregnancy expectations?
When I found out I was pregnant I thought I would love it. I was excited about feeling the flutters of the baby moving and seeing my stomach move with each kick. I read all the books and I was looking forward to scrap booking my entire pregnancy story. I saw it as positive, even gaining weight for me was going to be a good experience. I was pregnant and was going to have a baby!
When did you realize your pregnancy wouldn’t be what you expected?
I was not prepared for it at all. I truly thought my pregnancy would be like the outline provided in all the pregnancy books. I was 20 weeks along and we just announced a few weeks prior that we were expecting a baby. I just didn’t think it was possible to go into labor that soon in my pregnancy, and I missed all the warning signs.
The day began like all others, so much to do so little time. I was working as an Assistant Principal and it was that time of year when the school is busy with testing, teacher evaluations and planning. I had consistent stomach cramps, but kept fighting through the pain. I guess I knew something wasn’t right but I was unsure of what I was experiencing. From what I read the only common discomfort I should feel was braxton hicks contractions so I kept telling myself that’s what was happening.
At the end of day the pain was becoming unbearable. By the time I got into my car I couldn’t move my legs and I curled over in excruciating pain. I had to use my hands just to lift my legs to get my feet to touch the pedals. That’s when I realized something was seriously wrong and was taken to the emergency room.
What was your reaction when were told you were in Preterm (Premature) Labor?
Honestly, I was in denial. The nurse told me I was in preterm labor (when you begin uterine contractions before 37 weeks of pregnancy), but I didn’t fully understand what she was telling me. There was no way I could be in labor because I was only 20 weeks along.
I kept repeating to the nurse that I needed to go because I had a dinner date planned with my husband. The nurse grabbed my hand, and at that moment I could see the concern in her face. She told me that I was not going to dinner, not going back to work, and I would be on full bedrest until the baby is born.
Immediately I understood what was happening and my denial became fear. I was now in a state of panic because I knew the baby wouldn’t survive if he was born now. I had to get myself together and focus. There became an insatiable need to protect my baby and ensure he would be born after he was fully developed.
How did you cope with the pregnancy path that you were now on?
Once I accepted this was my pregnancy I was committed to adhering to the rules my physician gave me. Strict bed rest meant that I couldn’t stand up longer than ten minutes each hour, I could only take cold showers, and I was not to have intercourse. For the first few days it was fine, but as the days progressed the pain and tension built up in my body and it was painful. During the entire pregnancy my uterus would have contractions making my stomach muscles sore. I knew that as long as I was laying down I would not trigger the labor. Therefore, every time I would get up I was scared. The constant fear would not only tense my body more, but it would also create mental anguish and exhaustion. Every hour seemed like an eternity. In a 12 hour day I was only able to get up for 1 hour and 20 minutes, and that would be my ongoing routine for the next 16 weeks.
What was your biggest challenge with strict bed rest?
My biggest challenge was to stay focused. I was scared to do anything. Even the basics of getting dressed seemed to be too much. I was really afraid that I would accidentally over do it. The only time I would leave the house was to go see my physician, and just sitting up in car and riding back home would tire me out. I had such low energy and muscle control. I was worried about how I would be able to deliver my baby because it would require so much strength.
How was your labor and delivery?
When you are going through preterm labor you are constantly reminded that you can go into labor any minute. So, every week becomes a celebration – the more weeks that go by you are helping your baby! After our 36 week check up I was feeling much more relaxed because I knew my baby was safe. My worry changed to would I arrive at the hospital in time? I was constantly being told once labor starts it will go quickly. My husband picked up dinner and my stomach began to hurt more than normal and then I got a weird pinch in my back. We immediately went to the hospital. By the time we arrived I was already 9 cm dilated, and he came out in three pushes.
What challenges did you face after the birth of your baby?
We were fortunate that the bedrest got us to 36 weeks but Pierce did spend one day in the NICU. I think what I was most surprised about is that I would have such a difficult time breastfeeding. I hired three different lactation consultants to help with latching and position. I wasn’t prepared for how exhausting nursing would be and how frustrating it becomes when your milk supply doesn’t sustain your baby. I was pumping and nursing every hour. I was stressed and tired. It was exhausting.
So, you were now planning your second child, how was your experience different?
With my second pregnancy I knew I would be in bedrest because of preterm labor. We found out early we were expecting a girl so we started to prepare immediately. I was only 16 weeks when I went into preterm labor, and was put on steroid and progesterone shots. My son, Pierce, was only 14 months old and he was not able to understand why mommy can’t play with him or go to the zoo. My husband and I knew it would be hard with the bedrest with a toddler, but I didn’t think the guilt would take such a toll as it did.
Strict bedrest at 16 weeks? That must have been exhausting!
It’s funny because everybody thinks being in bed is easy. It is the hardest thing imaginable. Think about being in bed for a few days with a cold and you can’t wait to get out of the bed and the house. So bedrest with a growing body that’s changing due to pregnancy compounds the pain most pregnant women feel. You are unable to stretch, move around or exercise. So, the pain is so uncomfortable. I would only be able to sleep about one hour at night, and I was in bed all day. I would be in low and mid grade pain that was consistent throughout the day, and uterine contractions all the time.
How was the labor and delivery with your second child?
Nobody was prepared for how quickly she would come out, literally. I went into labor at home and we drove to the hospital. I was rushed to L&D room and my water broke and out she came. We were all shocked. The nurse was running down the hall to find the doctor on call. Again, we were blessed that both children didn’t need to be in NICU and were healthy and able to return home with us.
What advice would you give pregnant moms that may be experiencing preterm labor?
- Listen to your body. Don’t discount a pain or try to convince yourself that you are fine if you feel something is not right.
- Call your doctor if you are concerned. Don’t feel like you are putting them out or feel guilty if you have a question.
- Keep your focus on the baby. Bedrest is to help stop labor. Remember, you are doing the right thing by laying down and staying hydrated!
- Take a private at home or online pregnancy course. Don’t isolate yourself. There are still ways to be prepared for your labor and delivery and newborn care.
- Accept help. Let your family and friends come to your house to do laundry, clean and cook.
To join Beth’s facebook community >>https://www.facebook.com/houstonkidfun